India is assured of another five years of a Mazboot Sarkar. Votaries of a Majboor Sarkar led by that halfwit Rahul Gandhi have bitten the dust. Because they turned it into a Modi versus all contest, Modi beat them hands down, winning far more seats than he did in 2014.
Thanks to Rahul Gandhi and his robotic chants of ‘Chowkidar Chor Hai,’ a parliamentary contest was turned into a presidential one, with Modi alone being the candidate in all 542 constituencies. And, naturally, no faceless candidate, much less the leader of any casteist or regional party stood a chance. Modi swept away everything before him.
Until the exit polls gauged the popular mood a few days ago, nobody had hinted at such a humiliating rout for the Opposition. And, come to think of it, till Thursday morning they were accusing the exit pollwallas of being BJP’s paid agents.
Not since Indira Gandhi swept the poll in 1980 have we had a leader who could single-handedly take the country by storm, as Modi did in Mandate 2019. Reducing the Yadav-Jatav-Jat Mahagathbandhan of SP-BSP-RJD in UP to a poor second underlines the triumph of national security and nationalism over casteist and regional interests.
The Mayawati-Akhilesh Yadav-Ajit Singh gang-up could not cross the huge Pulwama-Balakot hump. Their hardcore caste followers, especially the under-35s, were as taken up with aggressive nationalism, which Modi purveyed on the stump, as any RSS-BJP ‘bhakt’.
`Beating Pakistan deep inside its home’, was a powerful imagery which did wonders for the incumbent. If the 2014 Modi mandate was a vote against the scam-ridden UPA, the 2019 verdict is a positive vote for Modi, glossing over some of the glaring lags of his government.
The unabating tide of nationalist fervour following Pulwama-Balakot brushed aside all concerns about joblessness, farmer distress, etc. Secularists-liberals can launch a million tweets lamenting how a whole election was hijacked by extraneous issues with little relevance to the lives of the poor and the underprivileged.
But it is a fact of democratic life everywhere that a better campaign invariably ends up a winner. They may like to remember Indira Gandhi’s pummelling of opposition in 1971 on the heady slogan of ‘Garibi Hatao’. Had she kept her promise, we wouldn’t be talking of rampant poverty, illiteracy, unemployment et all half-a-century later.
History of all democracies is indeed a history of broken promises. No leader, big or small, has been able to keep his election promises. (David Cameron did and the British are still paying the price.) So, let us not talk about that Rs. 15 lakh in every poor Indian’s account. Maybe that is why there were no takers for Rahul Gandhi’s Rs. 72,000 in every Indian’s pocket on his becoming prime minister. Rahul can keep his Rs. 72,000 for all that the voter cares.
It is no use moaning that despite widespread farmer distress — and those much-ballyhooed public theatricals by an out-of-work Raj Thackeray — Maharashtra has stayed strongly with the BJP-Shiv Sena combine. It may be because the Congress-NCP did not have a worthy leader who inspired confidence. In a parliamentary poll, people elect a prime minister and not a party or an MP. Modi was the only candidate on the ballot for the PM’s post.
That would explain the wholesale rejection of the Congress in MP, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh where only a few months ago they had installed Congress governments. Indian voter is now fully conscious of ‘upar’ and ‘neechey’ elections. The return of Naveen Patnaik for the nth time in Odisha and the relatively good showing by the BJP in the Lok Sabha underlines the discriminating nature of the vote in one of the poorest States in the country.
Likewise in Andhra Pradesh, the near complete rejection of Chandrababu Naidu, who fashioned himself as some sort of a match-maker at the national level, running from one opposition leader to another like a headless chicken in order to cobble together an anti-Modi caboodle, is so thorough that it should take a while for him to be able to nurse his wounds.
Without doubt, another regional chieftain who has reason to feel humiliated is Mamata Banerjee, despite her attempt to put a brave face on the results. She thundered vile hatred for Modi and vowed not to allow BJP to win even a single seat — BJP has two in the outgoing House. In the event, BJP has stormed her citadel, leaving her fuming about the nefarious role of the central forces.
The capitulation of the Left and the Congress was to the advantage of the BJP in a State where it had little or no presence hitherto. Polarization of West Bengal on religious lines has found full reflection in this election. Unless reversed, Mamata will have a fight on her hands in the Assembly election in 2021, that is, unless her own MLAs choose to torpedo her boat earlier.
Which brings us to the increasing vulnerability of the Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh governments. Even if Modi were to adopt a hands-off approach, fickle loyalties of legislators, particularly those left out of the patronage pool, invariably lead them to join forces with the bigger winners.
Even given a benign Centre, huge tremors in Bhopal and Bengaluru shaking out incumbent regimes in the coming weeks cannot be ruled out, though we wish the BJP would not dirty its hand in Operation Topple. Indeed, in his second coming we do hope that Modi will shed some of the harshness, some of the in-your-face aggression that he has shown on the stump and earlier during his first term as prime minister.
Humility rather than arrogance becomes a great leader. Modi has achieved greatness in electoral terms. He should now show greatness by being magnanimous towards his critics, his opponents. Even if they are small in numbers, do not blank out their voice, do not shout them out.
Leaving aside the bitterness and acrimony of the campaign, he should begin by making a grand gesture of reconciliation by gratuitously offering the post of the Leader of the Opposition to the Congress Party even if it lacks the numbers to lay claim to that post. In the outgoing House, the Congress was ill-advised to fight for the LOP position even though its 44-seats did not entitle it to that position.
Again, Modi should ponder why he evokes strong feelings amongst the minuscule but articulate secularist- liberal class. This time around, the lumpen claiming allegiance to the Sangh parivar must be told in no uncertain terms that mischief in the name of gau raksha or love jihad, etc. will be visited by the most stringent punishment available in the IPC.
Modi cannot allow his global image to be besmirched by a handful of mercenary gau rakshaks and love-jihad hoodlums. Yet another vital lesson he can draw is to leave the media alone. He does not have to patronize it with ads or interviews so long as he does not undermine the so-called freedom of the press which in effect translates into the freedom of the press-owner, anyway.
Contrary to the general impression that the media was controlled, a Hindi TV news anchor blamed his counterparts in other channels for the NDA win, thus admitting his own failure since he was the poster boy of the anti-Modi propaganda in much of the Gangetic belt. In any case, Modi will profit from putting his best, most congenial face forward while interacting with the media.
Vitally, the economic scenario is not very rosy, given the war clouds over the Middle East and the ongoing US-China trade war which can unsettle the global economy. Modi, contrary to his ingrained statist approach, ought to further open up the economy, sell Air India and a few other dud public enterprises.
And, most crucially, undertake urgent land and labour reforms and generally be on the side of reforms rather than controls in the economic sphere. Yes, we know, having won the election on national pride and security he cannot be seen to be doing business with Pakistan. But deal with Pakistan he must in order to lessen tensions in Kashmir. We cannot make peace without talking to the enemy.
So long as you talk from a position of strength, there is nothing to be lost by engaging the Rawalpindi GHQ, even if it means talking to that puppet Imran Khan. A sizable constituency at home feels at ease when tensions with Pakistan are on the slow-burner.
Modi should put at ease the minorities, reassuring them of their safety and security, now that their self-styled well-wisher has licked the dust in Bhopal. Indian Muslims need not despair and this ought to be the message that the prime minister-elect must send out before the vested interests prey on their anxiety and fears